Tips for Success on Examinations

Throughout the Semester

Laying the foundations for success occurs weeks before taking the examination. Indeed, if examinations merely measured how much information you could cram into your brain the night before, professors would have long since abandoned tests as a useful measurement of what you had learned over the preceding weeks.

Think of preparing for an examination in the same way you would think of building a house. You must plan in advance before laying the foundations and building upward. It's a gradual process that takes time and ability. It's not like filling a car with gas or pounding a beer—activities that require no forethought, a minute amount of skill, and little time.


High school teachers and college professors never spend much time explaining exactly what they mean by the word "studying." Consequently, most students don't really know how to spend the last few days before an examination. After placing their notebook, the class handouts, the coursepack, and the textbook on a desk, they begin to

a) cry
b) clean their room, do the laundry, play video games, run errands . . .
c) calculate their worst-case scenario GPA
d) wonder if Bill Gates needed to know anything about history
e) get the van ready so they can leave college and follow the Phish tour

It doesn't have to be that way. Take control of your destiny and master the situation! Studying for an examination requires time, care, and thought. Studying is about reviewing, thinking, and then memorizing.

As you can see, these tasks require more than just a couple of hours. They also demand that you use your grey matter. To do the job right, you probably ought to break up this work into pieces over the course of several days.

During the Examination

By the time you've sat in your desk and opened the bluebook, there isn't really much you can do to enhance your performance (legally). Nevertheless, the following suggestions might help.

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Copyrighted by Hugh Dubrulle, 2008.